A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Piute Creek

With all this very interesting talk about Gary Snyder and wilderness in some parts of the blogworld at present (http://www.canoeinthemist.blogspot.com/), I thought I might post here one of my very favourite Snyder poems, Piute Creek, which is taken from Riprap, his 1st book of poetry published in 1959 (the title poem Riprap is also very fine).

Piute Creek

One granite ridge
A tree, would be enough
Or even a rock, a small creek,
A bark shred in a pool.
Hill beyond hill, folded and twisted
Tough trees crammed
In thin stone fractures
A huge moon on it all, is too much.
The mind wanders. A million
Summers, night air still and the rocks
Warm. Sky over endless mountains.
All the junk that goes with being human
Drops away, hard rock wavers
Even the heavy present seems to fail
This bubble of a heart.
Words and books
Like a small creek off a high ledge
Gone in the dry air.

A clear, attentive mind
Has no meaning but that
Which sees is truly seen.
No one loves rock, yet we are here.
Night chills. A flick
In the moonlight
Slips into Juniper shadow:
Back there unseen
Cold proud eyes
Of Cougar or Coyote
Watch me rise and go.

I think this is a wonderful poem. I don't want to do a critical analysis; suffice to say, Snyder's life-long preoccupations with Zen Buddhism, wilderness and mankind's ambiguous relationship with nature are pervasive. The line All the junk that goes with being human/Drops away... is just fantastic. (You experience floatingly that drop from rock to creek in a brilliantly effective enjambement.) I've found some of Snyder's other poetry collections rather more challenging - with their personal obliquities and beatnik flow - but Riprap, this 1st collection, remains a small, radiantly shining jewel in the pantheon of American 20th century literature.

(Another of my posts on Gary Snyder - which includes his poem Riprap - is here.)


forest wisdom said...

Excellent. Thanks for sharing this.

Raph G. Neckmann said...

The early part of the poem reminds me of volcanic landscapes I have been in; where the vastness is kind of too much, and shuts one's inner jabbering thoughts up leaving a still silence and freedom.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks both for your comments!

Andreas said...

Hallo, does anyone know who that Raymond Inmon is?
Google resists to unveil any information about him, but a few walking quotes.
Please check my website www.1000milesummer.com - might be interested in my kind of walking in the footsteps of late Colin Fletcher.

Happy Trails, Andy


The Solitary Walker said...

Don't know anthting more about Raymond Inmon, Andreas, other than a few quotes.

Strangely enough, I ordered a Colin Fletcher book from Amazon just a few days ago. How I've never read him before is one of life's mysteries. I know I've got a huge treat in store.

Great website! Will call back and browse in depth when I've got the time to do it justice.